Monday, May 3, 2010

2010 Offseason: Addressing Team Needs

Now that we have seen Portland go one and done in the playoffs for the second straight season, some team needs still need to be addressed. The biggest difference between this year and last has to do with the plethora of veteran leadership provided by Andre Miller, Marcus Camby, and Juwan Howard, which allowed Portland to withstand the array of injuries as best as possible by winning 50 games again, and reaching the playoffs in the hotly contested Western Conference. Out of necessity, the trade which brought in Marcus Camby turned a couple of strengths into liabilities at times down the stretch of the 2010 season. Blake and Outlaw provided a solid, sturdy second unit for the Trail Blazers, as well as long-range accuracy, but those strong suits of the team had to be left by the wayside as Portland had bigger holes to fill, such as providing Aldridge and Howard with some help up front. No one questioned the trade for Camby then, nor do they now, but the voids left by Blake's steadiness and Outlaw's gunner mentality still have yet to be filled.
Here are a list of needs Pritchard and Co. can target this summer to help take Portland to the next step.
  • Bench Scorer:
  • What do all elite teams have in common? Either a cohesive bench unit or a 6th man who can come in and heat up in an instant. Detroit in the 80's had Vinnie "Microwave" Johnson, Toni Kukoc for the Bulls in the mid-90's, and more recently, Manu Ginobili of the Spurs earlier this decade. Although he wasn't at any of the aforementioned player levels, Travis didn't need any time to heat up and was good for about 13 points a night and could be counted on to make shots in the clutch. Jerryd Bayless showed signs of becoming a dynamic scorer off the bench, but a couple factors negate this thought. First, he needs more than just a few minutes to heat up. He is a rhythm player who needs minutes in bunches to get into the flow of the game. Also, I'm not sure we want our point guard being the one doing all the scoring and I don't think that's what the coaching staff is grooming him to be. Bayless' future is definitely with this team, but I'd like to see us acquire a wing player to play alongside Jerryd and Martell on the second unit. While Jerryd is trying to make a name for himself as a distributor, Webster is doing so as a defensive stopper. A three guard bench unit of Bayless, Webster, and [insert scorer here] seems to fill all roles to a tee and could catapult us into elite status.
  • 3-Point Specialist:
  • Again, with Blake and Outlaw gone, our long-range accuracy went as well. In 2009, Portland shot 38.4% from beyond the arc but saw it plummet down to 35.5%. The discrepancies in shooting percentage could be just another fallout from the injuries as guys such as Rudy Fernandez and Travis Outlaw (pre-trade) were either hurt for prolonged periods of time, in Outlaw's case or just constantly dinged up as was the case for Fernandez, but Coach McMillan wants to see another shooter added to the mix regardless. While Batum has turned himself into quite the marksmen from downtown, (40.9%), I still feel like once he subs out of the game or is having an off night, our long-range shooting goes out along with him. Maybe this is where Portland kills two birds with one stone, in the sense they acquire a instant offense scorer off the bench who happens to be extremely accurate from 20 ft. and beyond.
  • Bruising Backup Forward:
  • What did the all the great Blazer teams of season's past have that we don't currently attribute? A big, strong, take-no-prisoners, power forward. Although the title team had Maurice Lucas, the 90's had Buck Williams, and the millennium squad featured Briant Grant as starters, the current Trail Blazers already have their starter at the 4 spot firmly entrenched for years to come in Aldridge, who's inside/out combination is a perfect compliment to Oden. The only issue is that too many times did the starting big men check out of the game only to see the opposition clean house on the boards. It makes even more sense considering the division in which Portland participates in. The Thunder have young buck Serge Ibaka, Utah possesses one of the best backup forwards in the league in Paul Millsap, Minnesota has one of the best pure rebounders coming off their bench in Kevin Love, and Denver has Chris "Birdman" Andersen who is willing to give up his body on any given play as long as it benefits the team.
    As the team stands, when healthy, they are loaded and a force to be reckoned with. All the essentials are there for contention. Superstar? Check, Brandon Roy. Veteran leadership? Check and Check, compliments of Camby and Miller. Robin to Roy's Batman? Yes sir, LaMarcus Aldridge. Perimeter defense? Most definitely, thanks to the progression of Nicolas Batum and Martell Webster. Interior defense and rebounding? No doubt about it with Oden and Camby manning the middle. Young talent? Bayless, Cunningham, and Pendergraph would all agree. The team doesn't need much, but with their mid-level free agent exception to go along with two picks in the upcoming draft, the Trail Blazers have the resources to turn some of these weaknesses into strengths in a big hurry.

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